Sometimes, despite all of our best efforts and attempts to keep the team working together, a team will “break” – essentially, this means that it is no longer working at the capacity nor the potential that it once had. This can be due to personality conflicts, misunderstandings or sometimes something as simply as having hired one “wrong” team member who is upsetting the entire project because of their work habits, attitude or lack of know-how.
Fortunately, these problems are usually easily repaired, and while the remedy might not be easy to actually do – like having to remove someone from the team completely – it is necessary if the team ever hopes to move forward and work together on new projects. However, it’s always best to try to fix the situation first before just giving up and firing someone from the team. Oftentimes it is when digging for answers that reasons behind problems are discovered, allowing the team to be salvaged and get back to work again.
There are three things that you need to ask yourself in order to determine your first course of action:
1) What is the REAL issue happening here? Is it just a case of someone not doing his or her job – or is there some real fault with the actual project plan itself? 2) What are you going to DO about the broken team? 3) How can you prevent this from happening AGAIN in the future?
Once you ask those questions you will be able to determine if it is a personality conflict, a behavior issue, communications problems or something else entirely.
- PERSONALITY CONFLICT – If two of your team members are not getting along because of a personality conflict, your first step should be to separate them. If they are doing unrelated jobs where they do not truly need to be in contact, this will be easy. However, if one is a designer and the other is the webmaster, you will then have to rely on your project coordinator to become the “buffer.” If it becomes apparent that one employee is the cause of the conflict between the two, and it is affecting the success of the project, you may be forced to remove that employee if separation does not work.
- BEHAVIOR ISSUE – Even for staff members not working together in an office setting, behavior issues can become a problem. If your employee does not represent your office professionally to clients, affiliates, co-workers or to the industry on public forums, you may need to consider counseling him on it or removing him from your staff. We’ve all heard the stories of employees gone bad at industry events, throwing chairs out windows, getting arrested, groping other attendees – and in most cases these employees get removed from the picture. Bad behaviors may seem like a small issue, but can affect the team and the company’s reputation as a whole.
- COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS – Your project coordinator and your entire team need to know how to effectively communicate. If there are questions, problems, issues, complications or situations that come up that might hinder the outcome and goals of the project team, these issues need to be directed to the manager in charge. Project coordinators need to effectively express daily duties, deadlines and expectations to staff – and staff members need effectively ask questions and express concerns. All need to be aware that they have been hired because of their particular experience and/or expertise in specific areas, so if they see something that needs to be addressed it is their responsibility to do so at the earliest opportunity.
- INCAPABLE STAFF – We’ve all done it, hired someone on the word of someone else only to find that we’ve hired someone totally incapable of completing the task at hand. This is common with designers, programmers and sales staff and needs to be rectified immediately. It is likely that mere consultation and “warnings” will not work in this instance and you should “cut your losses” as soon as possible to avoid any further setbacks or problems within the company. Move on, hire fresh staff and make sure you remember to ask the questions you WISH you had asked the first time around.
- POOR WORK HABITS – Sometimes, even with proper supervision, you’ll get staff members who just have poor work habits. Some are distracted by the “cubicle atmosphere” at the office and can be found chit-chatting at the water cooler throughout the day, while others who work from home are more interested in their daily dose of soap operas and PC games than completing the tasks at hand. Some of these problems can be overcome with counseling – or by setting a strict guideline of rules combined with check-in and check-out times (for home workers) to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth each day.
Building a Solid Team If you are just beginning to build your team – or are just at the conception stage of expanding your business, you have a rare opportunity to start things off on the right foot. By establishing open lines of communication, clear and concise directions and deadlines, giving your staff guidelines of the goals for the team as a whole and by encouraging your project coordinator to employ a hands-on approach to management, you will avoid a lot of these common problems.
One such technique that is used by many successful businesses is the “team touch” policy. Your project coordinator or manager should “reach out” to individual staff members on a weekly basis, check in with them, find out how they are doing and ask them directly if they have any questions or problems. Twice weekly check-ins are recommended for satellite telecommuting staff, and you can contact them via immediate message (Yahoo, MSN, AIM or ICQ), via phone or e-mail, whichever is more productive for you and familiar to your staff. Teams that have an open line of communication to their supervisors get more work done, get it done in a more efficient and complete manner and are overall happier in their jobs.
It is truly in your best interest to build your team SOLID from the ground up. Begin good management habits with the first employee and then see it through all the way until the team is complete. Whatever type of business you run – whether it’s content-based, service oriented or customer support focused – a solid team is essential for any hope of long-term success. Happy employees make happy customers – and happy customers mean money in the bank!
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